Grants fund projects that will increase the competitiveness of Minnesota grown specialty crops in domestic and foreign markets. The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) defines specialty crops as fruits and vegetables, tree nuts, dried fruits, horticulture and nursery crops, floriculture, and processed products that have 50% or more specialty crop content by weight, exclusive of added water. A comprehensive list of eligible specialty crops is available on the USDA's web site.
The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) encourages the following groups to apply for the Specialty Crop Block Grant Program (SCBGP):
- nonprofit organizations
- producer organizations
- government agencies
- other agricultural groups
For-profit entities, farms, and other businesses who want to develop sector-wide research and development projects are also eligible.
Projects must enhance the competitiveness of specialty crops that are grown in Minnesota by:
- Leveraging efforts to market and promote specialty crops;
- Assisting producers with research and development relevant to specialty crops;
- Expanding availability and access to specialty crops; or
- Addressing local and regional challenges confronting specialty crop producers.
A specialty crop is defined by the USDA. This program cannot fund starting a business or expanding a farm. Each project must demonstrate external support from specialty crop stakeholders and produce measurable outcomes for the specialty crop industry and/or public beneficiaries. Projects that address problems or opportunities that cross state boundaries are eligible.
Visit the USDA's SCBGP Awarded Grants page to see previously funded projects in Minnesota and across the country.
Minnesota is seeking projects for our 2022 SCBG that pertain to the following issues affecting the specialty crop industry:
- Improving distribution systems and marketing of specialty crops, such as reducing costs, increasing promotion, or creating new methods to achieve and sustain profitable businesses.
- Increasing child and adult nutrition knowledge and consumption of specialty crops.
- Researching and developing of techniques that focus on pest or disease control.
- Developing new or improved specialty crop seed or plant varieties.
- Researching and developing techniques to increase sustainable production of specialty crops, including growing season extension, adaption to drought and floods, strengthening seed and crop systems, and increasing soil health.
- Improve capacity of all entities in the specialty crop distribution chain to comply with the requirements of the Food Safety Modernization Act, for example, developing “Good Agricultural Practices,” “Good Handling Practices,” “Good Manufacturing Practices,” and other support for farmers, packers, and processors to enhance food safety.
Projects that benefit beginning farmers will receive up to two points. A beginning farmer is an individual or entity that has not operated a farm or ranch for more than ten years and substantially participates in the operation.
Projects that benefit emerging farmers will receive up to five points. The USDA tracks projects that benefit Socially Disadvantaged farmers as defined in the USDA-Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) 2022 SCBGP Request for Applications (PDF). This definition includes emerging farmers, such as Native American producers, immigrant farmers, farmers of color, and women.
Applicants may request a grant award of at least $20,000 up to a maximum of $125,000 per project that spans up to 2.5 years.
Applications are due no later than 4:00 pm Central Time on Thursday, March 10, 2022.
Read the full Request for Proposals (PDF) for eligibility and requirements and apply online. If you need the application in an alternative format, please contact us.
New for FFY2022: USDA-AMS grant programs have updated performance measures to better track accomplishments and impacts while reducing the burden on applicants and recipients.
|RFP released||January 2022|
|Deadline for questions||March 3, 2022, 4:00 pm CT|
|Applications due to the MDA||March 10, 2022, 4:00 pm|
|Grant review process||About six weeks|
|MDA notifies conditionally approved applicants||mid-April 2022|
|MDA submits state plan to USDA||May 3, 2022|
|USDA approval (anticipated)||September 2022|
|MDA issues approval letters to successful applicants and initiates contracting||October 2022|
|Earliest grant contract start date (project work can start)||November 1, 2022|
|Planned project end date||April 30, 2025|
|Latest project end date upon approved request (expected)||September 29, 2025|
Planning for Next Year (2023)
We are also seeking input on project priorities for the next Request for Proposals (RFP). Your suggestions will be used to help improve the competitive review process. Please submit comments to Ian Kushner and Ann Kuzj by December 8, 2022, for consideration for FFY2023 SCBG RFP.
For more information, refer to the purpose in section 1.2 and the list of project types in section 1.3 of the USDA-AMS 2021 SCBGP Request for Applications (PDF).